Independent Media Explained
Independent Media refers to any form of media that is “free of influence” by government or corporate interests. Independent journalists play an important role in improving government accountability and reducing corruption. While some Independent Media sources can be biased, the bias tends to be significantly different than that of mainstream media. Being Independent from a network does not make them any less of a member of press. The way of traditional media is rapidly changing and live streaming social media, and personal blogs are becoming the pathway to what the new mainstream media will be. Society needs to catch up or get left behind.
Since 2020, Independent Media has played a crucial role when it comes to "in real life (IRL)" streaming. One of the most notable cases of this came during the Kyle Rittenhouse shooting incident during the August 2020 unrest in Kenosha. Video evidence used throughout the entire trial came from independent journalists and live streamers who were out there to document the unrest. It was our footage that gave not only the public but the courts a first-hand look into what happened in Kenosha. Independents would again play another crucial role putting us on the map again during the Rittenhouse Trial. During testimony of one of the Car Source owners in Kenosha, CJTV had an unreleased interview with the owner that contradicted the testimony he was giving. CJ contacted the defense team and emailed over the interview live while the witness was on the stand which was used to discredit his testimony. Never Stop Media would do a similar thing during the Theo Edgecomb Trial here in Milwaukee when a courthouse camera accidentally showed several jurors during voir dire which was immediately reported to the District Attorney's Office and the Defense Team. During a pause in the case, the Milwaukee DA handling the case contacted NSM to inquire excatly what had happened. NSM provided video and screen shots to the DA which resulted in a 50 person jury panel being removed.
Never Stop Media LLC practices journalism that is completely free of influence. At no time will any government entity or privatized group or individual control the narrative of any coverage that Never Stop Media puts out. This is generally true for most Independent sources. While out in the field during live streaming we strive to ensure that the truth of what is actually happening is being reported to the general public. During our off camera investigations, we ensure that truth is being told regardless of what side it lands on.
During our live coverage we document events to their exactness which is different than our streams with viewers during Q&A’s. While we will still report the exactness of what was filmed there are times during commentary that our opinion on a situation will come out. There are times where we do not express an opinion but offer thought provoking questions or statements in order to create healthy discourse between sides. In other scenarios we are legally not allowed to speak on a situation as we may be called to testify.
While from a legal and constitutional standpoint, we as citizens of the United States are protected under the 1st Amendment to film in public and any publicly accessible space that would have no expectation of privacy. This means that you are legally allowed to record people and activities. What needs to be understood and is generally misunderstood and perceived as bias or narrative control by the general public is that independent journalists/press are not law enforcement and therefore use judgment in each situation during filming. We need to be hyper-alert of our surroundings and any and all safety risks while filming. We do our best to record and document events to their fullest. At times we are asked to not film faces or events. While we do have a constitutional right to do so, we need to respect a participant’s request/demand to not film. Most will not understand this and throw around accusations and assumptions that the individual or group must then be engaged in an illegal or criminal activity. This is not necessarily so. Law Enforcement Agencies have been using live streams to identify/target not only criminals but also those who are engaged in lawful and constitutionally protected activities. Citizens have used these live streams to dox another individual by revealing not only public information about an individual but also their personal and private information. This goes to extents where individuals/families are then publicly harassed and threatened and in some situations attacked. We are not out there to intentionally jeopardize anyone’s safety and we are not law enforcement there to capture and expose criminal actions. Our sole purpose is to document the truth of the events that are happening whether on camera or off. If we are put in situations where we cannot physically record an individual or situation we still inform our audience of exactly what is happening as it is happening and resume filming when we can. Are there times during riots where we are filming and surrounded by a crowd of individuals threatening our safety while filming? Yes, this does happen. Again, while the general public will accuse of portraying a bias or filling a narrative, my safety and freedom is not worth a video, or views on social media.
The most interesting and controversial overlooked aspect of filming is Law Enforcements blatant disregard of the 1st Amendment and the general public’s complacency to allow it. During a protest if media has to stop filming or face a camera to the ground the public is outraged and very quick to throw accusations at the media personnel. But when Law Enforcement blocks filming and/or arrests media, especially those of Independent Media there is no outrage by the general public and labels of “fake press” or “not real press” are quickly attached. Explanation thrown around of “curfews” so Independents are viewed as nothing more than a member of the public, despite having a constitutional right, legally registered companies and operating in a professional capacity. An NSM Journalist was arrested in Kenosha during the unrest (the first Independent to be arrested) for violating curfew on the grounds of "suspicious behavior". This arrest would later be dropped and two years would go by before Never Stop Media would be provided documents of that arrest. Video during the arrest according to an open records request were destroyed while the case was still pending which is illegal. NSM also filed a "spoliation letter" during its Writ of Mandamus Lawsuit against the Kenosha Police Department for 33 records requests that were denied. A spoliation letter prevents an entity from destroying evidence, and evidence was still destroyed. Later NSM would be charged with Pedestrian on a Hwy and Disorderly Assemblage for filming a protest that ended up on a Milwaukee highway, six weeks after the incident, and only after the NSM Journalist exposed corruption within the Milwaukee Police Department. Both of those charges were also dismissed with a promise to not enter a highway to film.
Law Enforcement uses blanketed statements of safety and strategy to prevent members of the press acting in the public’s eye to shut down Independent coverage.
The general public distrusts mainstream media for putting out false news or one-sided narratives, but are quick to label them as real press when it conveniently fits their narrative at the time. Those on the Independent side of things are quickly labeled as fake news despite the general public’s reliance on live streams to get a more accurate depiction of what is going on in real time. So which is it? Are we real press or fake press? Local police departments have enacted policy to determine who they personally view as “real press”. This is actually illegal and a clear violation of the 1st Amendment. It raises many questions. When any individual acts as the public’s eye generally speaking they should be considered in that moment as a journalist documenting an event so long as they are not engaged in criminal activity themselves. Any government official is legally allowed to be filmed while operating in their professional capacity. So why is it we allow one group to dictate rules, guidelines, policies that hold no legal standing but get upset when another group does the same exact thing?
For myself, I have always had a registered company in the state I live in. In 2021, I increased the capacity of the company when it came to its registration. I was not legally obligated to do this. It was done because of the type of content the company would be putting out. It was done to give more protections to the company and its personnel. I have a legal company, I have multiple legal platforms that we use to publicize our news content, I have a team of legal personnel, I have researchers, editors, fact checkers etc. My content is shared/viewed internationally. Why am I not the new mainstream? Why am I constantly asked to identify? I have always had credentials from the company. I have since revised my credentials to show more information than I am legally obligated to in an attempt to make things easier when stopped by law enforcement. Some ask us the difference between real press and those who go out and film with their phones generally as a regular citizen. Again, it isn’t up to us or Law Enforcement to decide this. Here’s the way we handle it which can be seen in a stop conducted by the Wauwatosa Police Department during their curfew.
I have a registered LLC. The credentials I carry have my name, phone number, company name, the word “press”, entity ID, social media accounts, emails, and picture. I carry two types of Id’s. In a luggage case tag is my company issued ID badge and my government ID. Attached to that is a larger press ID with the same information. A larger ID is also attached to my backpack so that my bag is associated with me and the belongings of the company. My outer clothing whether a hooded sweatshirt, bullet proof vest, helmet etc. is clearly marked and visible as Press. It is only required to be clearly identified as press. This means as simple as a badge hanging from your neck. I personally tag every part of me to be more visible than most. In each encounter with any Law Enforcement Agency I immediately ID as a member of Press.
The interaction is legally supposed to stop there. If Law Enforcement asks for my credentials, I hand them to them. Again it legally cannot go further than this. Asking to do searches and seizures of property and equipment is illegal. For me, while I get annoyed and irritated with this step, if it shows a level of compliance and no nefarious reasons for being out there I am more than happy to show officers that I am not a threat to their physical safety. I personally go above and beyond what I am legally required to do so that my interaction with Law Enforcement can be handled as quick as possible so I can get on with my job and they can get on with theirs. Anything after this and I will start enforcing my rights, and quickly mention my legal team. An encounter should take no more than 2 minutes. Anything longer and there is usually rights being violated. Anything longer and it becomes a fishing expedition for Intel and trying to decide if I am legitimate press or not. Anything longer poses a threat to my safety as my interaction with law enforcement can be misconstrued. An example of this type of stop can be seen here in the beginning of one of NSM's Livestreams during the Kenosha Unrest which led to the arrest of a second Independent Journalist. We not only were stopped by Kenosha PD, but the FBI also ran our information which later we were stopped again by Kenosha Detectives. It's important to note again that law enforcement watches these livestreams in real time and can clearly see what an independent journalist is doing and saying. In this case they could see that we had already been cleared by local and federal law enforcement.
Regardless, my interaction with Law Enforcement is always respectful and always will be. I have personally had many encounters night after night with various departments and agencies of Law Enforcement, everything from local PD to FBI, US Marshals and ATF. I will never shut my live stream off while engaged with law enforcement and provided my body cam is still on my person it is immediately turned on.
Every protest group, every city, every situation is different. It is about Trust and Respect first and foremost. With the growing mistrust of law enforcement and mainstream media, independent and mainstream media essentially has to follow a set of unwritten rules while filming. So what are these unwritten rules? Peaceful events are allowed to be filmed to their entirety with no restriction. If participants ask to not be on camera you respect it or get shut down. During altercation you film until you are told not to and then the camera either faces the ground or is shut off. You should introduce yourself, your company, your intentions and agenda to those who appear to be in charge of the event to help establish an initial level of trust and respect. When engaged in conversation, you do not turn the camera right away to film an individual, you ask permission first. If you are told to stop filming, you do so immediately to lessen the tension and try to state your intentions for filming a situation. Do not argue. It doesn’t end well. You film all encounters with Law Enforcement and protestor. You are free to film all Law Enforcement and Government Entity. Each group in each city adheres to these unwritten rules but each group may have additional guidelines to be followed as well. It’s all about trust & respect. Sometimes being vouched for gives access to film everything and other times even with someone vouching it means nothing. During an active riot, these rules can change very quickly. You film what you can but safety becomes the number one priority.
In Kenosha, my presence daily was watched. I had always asked myself and wondered how I was able to have so much access and be able to move around and freely film without interruption. As my experience and journey throughout documenting events in Kenosha have furthered it has become clearer to me. I was always very respectful, was always clear of my intentions and motives for being out there filming. No matter what was happening I stayed. I was always the last one to leave regardless of how tired I was. I showed up every day. I made sure that voices were heard. I made sure to document interactions with law enforcement. I was always transparent and truthful. Traveling to other cities and filming different groups there is a level of mistrust that is to be expected. While I may have many individuals including leaders of organizations vouching for me it doesn’t always go the way I would like it to. These groups are very aware that law enforcement watches all live streams, they are aware that law enforcement implements their own personnel to live stream, they are aware that media generally speaking fills a narrative that usually has a negative vantage point which is what the general public forms their opinion on. The same transparency and dedication that was shown in Kenosha has to be clear within other groups in other cities. We have to consistently follow those unwritten rules and each group's guidelines until we are trusted enough to film the same way we film in other cities and with other groups.
It is easy to cast judgment from the comfort of your home but until you pick up a camera and implement yourself in the middle of it all, you may never fully understand what we submerge ourselves in. The sacrifices and potential dangers we have to endure so the public can get a firsthand look. In most scenarios we are in the middle of witnessing beauty, pain, tears, and a community coming together. In others we are thrown into anger, violence, destruction and sometimes death. While we strive to be professional we are at times over ran by the human side of us. Emotion gets displayed and our opinions can take over. At the end of the day we are all human.
Independent's who run companies rely heavily on public donations since we refuse to take corporate sponsorships. We don't receive weekly paychecks for countless hours that we put into events that we cover, the cost of travel, the cost of maintaining software and equipment, the cost of open records requests and sometimes the cost of lawsuits and legal representation to protect ourselves so that we can continue to provide the public with content generally before mainstream media puts it out and most often, provide content where mainstream media is nowhere to be found. A lot of times, mainstream media uses our content to report the news clips that get widely spread. Supporting Independent Media with continued donations or memberships helps ensure that we can continuously provide the public with the actual truth of what is happening throughout various cities around the country.
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